It's 1994 all over again.
At least that's what TNA Wrestling is hoping after signing deals this week with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff.
When he was running World Championship Wrestling 15 years ago, Bischoff made the blockbuster move of signing Hogan after the latter had a falling out with World Wrestling Entertainment. The Hulkster helped WCW garner mainstream recognition and even surpass WWE as the nation's preeminent company.
But under Bischoff's watch, WCW then suffered a rapid decline in 1999 and was out of business two years later. Bischoff went to work for WWE as an on-screen character before focusing on the television entertainment production company he formed with former actor Jason Hervey ("The Wonder Years'').
Hogan has remained in the media spotlight for reasons besides wrestling. Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) branched into reality television with "Hogan Knows Best,'' which chronicled a family far more dysfunctional off-camera than presented on the show. Hogan's son Nick served time in jail for his part in an auto accident that left his passenger permanently disabled, while wife Linda Bollea filed for what has become a divorce uglier than the villains that The Hulkster once dispatched.
Hogan had toyed with joining TNA before, only to use the company as leverage before re-signing with WWE. But it finally appears WWE owner Vince McMahon has lost interest in working with the character he helped make grappling's biggest star.
With financial problems mounting, the 56-year-old Hogan began branching back into pro wrestling last year with a reality show training D-list celebrities like Todd Bridges and Dustin Diamond. Hogan and Bischoff also booked a November tour of Australia and planned to promote shows overseas chock with ex-WWE performers that include Ric Flair.
Because of numerous health problems, Hogan is likely to assume a figurehead commissioner role in TNA. A slew of Hogan and Bischoff chronies are now expected to surface in TNA as well.
Unlike during the 1990s wrestling wars between WWE and WCW, Hogan's arrival won't make TNA a legitimate contender for grappling supremacy. WWE has established itself as the industry's top company and is in no imminent danger of losing that spot.
Hogan, though, will give TNA much greater visibility than it has now. After seven years of steady growth, TNA ratings on Spike TV have grown stagnant -- roughly two million fans watch each week -- and pay-per-view audiences are small. Hogan should provide at least a short-term boost. Spike also will benefit from having a working relationship with Bischoff and Hervey for future programming deals.
Hogan's first TNA interview airs on tonight's episode of Impact (9 p.m. EST). For more information, visit www.tnawrestling.co m
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